Teen mother who fell pregnant at 14 shares her joy at graduating at 21 – and says she did her dissertation while her daughter, now six, worked on her homework
- Rachel Campey, from Cross Gates, Leeds, fell pregnant when she was 14
- She says her teenage years took her down a ‘dark path’ before giving birth
- Campey shared photos of herself and her now six-year-old daughter Lily-Rose at her graduation ceremony at Leeds Trinity University
- She said it was ‘overwhelming’ to get a degree after struggling as a single mum
A woman who fell pregnant at just 14 has shared heartwarming photographs of herself gaining a university degree – with her now six-year-old daughter by her side.
Rachel Campey, 21, from Cross Gates, Leeds, wore her mortar board and gown with pride as she graduated from Leeds Trinity University this week, and said it was ‘overwhelming’ to achieve academic success after giving up her education at 15.
Campey, who has been nominated for an inspirational individual award, said she had struggled down a ‘very dark path’ as a teenager – including being bullied for being a teenage mother – and never expected to be able to receive her degree in Counselling Psychology.
Rachel Campey, 21, gave birth to her daughter Lily-Rose, now six, at 15, and was forced to give up on her education. She shared photos of her graduation on Twitter today, as she gained a degree from Leeds Trinity University
Rachel at 15 having given birth to Lily-Rose; she says single motherhood spurred her on to success because she wanted to achieve for her daughter
She told the PA news agency that the ceremony itself was ‘really emotional’, especially after battling anxiety and the stress of balancing a degree, job and the responsibilities of being a single mother for three years.
‘I saw Lily-Rose’s face as I put my gown and my cap on when I was getting ready for the ceremony, and it just made it all feel so worthwhile,’ she said.
‘I just felt a lot of completion throughout the day. I felt overwhelming love and pride from my family, and from myself, as well as my daughter.’
Miss Campey said her daughter, aged six, was slightly overawed by the ceremony but that she was ‘smiling all day long’.
She told PA: ‘When I was writing my dissertation, she was doing homework at the side of me, so she gets how long a process it has been.
‘They accidentally pronounced my surname wrong when I went onto the stage to collect my degree, and I heard her correct them and say ‘that’s my mummy’.’
The graduate, who lives in Cross Gates, Leeds, said she had had to leave her school months after she became pregnant at the age of 14, as they could not support her.
From there, she went to a range of educational establishments, before eventually going to York College and on to university from there.
Despite fearing she’d be forced to drop out of university, Rachel completed her degree in counselling psychology and says her daughter’s birth helped her come out of a dark place
Miss Campey told PA that having her daughter spurred her on to work towards getting a degree in order to give the youngster the best possible future.
She said: ‘If I hadn’t had Lily-Rose, because I was struggling with my mental health, I don’t think I would be here now.
‘She changed my whole perception. I was on a very dark path before I had her, and she brightened it all up.’
The mother said she faced bullying in the years before starting her degree, and at one stage nearly dropped out of university entirely.
‘I had so many moments in the first year where I didn’t think I could do it, I was walking down the hall crying my eyes out going to drop out of university, thinking ‘this is such a mess, why have I put myself in this situation’,’ she said.
‘But the whole environment at Leeds Trinity was amazing – it was the first time I really felt supported in what I wanted to do.’
She added: ‘If you’re a young parent and you’ve suffered with mental health issues, it doesn’t mean the end of your goals. You can still work towards them whenever you’re ready.
‘Just because somebody says you can’t do it doesn’t mean you can’t actually do it, because you can if you really want to.’
Miss Campey has been nominated for the inspirational individual award at the 2020 Yorkshire Choice awards, and hopes to continue studying or become a public speaker, having earned third-class honours in her degree.
She is also an ambassador for MindMate, an NHS organisation which supports young people and professionals.
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